They were middle school kids the last time De La Salle and Centennial-Corona played for a state football title, but the current Spartans are well aware of the history between the programs.

De La Salle won its first state championship in 2007 by beating the Huskies 37-31 in the Division I bowl game. The next year, with future college stars Taylor Martinez and Vontaze Burfict leading the Huskies, Centennial handed De La Salle a 21-16 defeat in the Division I bowl game.

"It's the official but unofficial state title game rivalry," said De La Salle senior Austin Hooper.

Consider Saturday night's California Interscholastic Federation Open Division state bowl game the rubber match. De La Salle (14-0) and Centennial (14-1) will kick off at 8 p.m. at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Nobody has reached more bowl games in the modern era of the event than Centennial and De La Salle. The Spartans have played in a bowl game every year since the event's inception in 2006 while the Huskies lead the Southern region by making their fourth appearance this weekend.

In yet another twist, De La Salle hasn't lost to another California team since that 2008 defeat to Centennial, a streak of 52 games and three Open Division state titles.

"It's 1-1 between us, and I think you can feel our coaches' urge to get another shot at them," said Spartan linebacker Michael Hutchings.


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Centennial, which has won 14 straight, has put together a season that has been nothing short of heart-stopping. The Huskies have overcome injuries to five starters and won five games in the final minute, including last week's Southern Regional final against favored Narbonne-Harbor City. Centennial's section championship game win also came down to the last minute, as did its semifinal and quarterfinal contests.

"We've been battle-tested under adverse conditions," said Matt Logan, Centennial's veteran head coach.

Against Narbonne, Centennial lost a lead with 1:09 left, but quarterback Robert Webber orchestrated a game-winning drive, completing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tre Watson with 22 seconds left for a 41-34 win.

Webber has keyed an offense that is scoring a state-best 50.4 points per game.

In a no-huddle spread, the junior has passed for a school record 3,660 yards as well as 38 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He's also rushed for 720 yards.

Considering the Division I quarterbacks that came before him -- Martinez (Nebraska), Matt Scott (Arizona) and Michael Eubank (Arizona State) -- the school passing record says something.

"He's a great decision-maker and accurate thrower," Logan said of Webber. "His improvement has been incredible from game one to game 15."

But the Huskies' balance is what makes them especially dangerous.

Watson and Austin Renken have combined for 2,649 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns behind what Logan describes as a dominant and physical offensive line.

Left tackle Cameron Hunt, a 6-foot-5, 275-pound Cal commit, is a three-year starter and has state bowl game experience from 2010 when the Huskies lost to Palo Alto in the Division I game.

Hunt left Saturday's regional final with cramps and had to be treated at the hospital but is expected back this weekend.

Follow Stephanie Hammon at twitter.com/stephhammon.

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